Pastor’s Friday Comments (10.04.19)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” is the way those of us who were brought up on the King James Version of the Bible learned the first verse of the twenty-fourth Psalm. It might not have been as familiar to us as its next door neighbor, but we still knew what it meant. God created the world; everything in it, including us, belongs to God; as God’s creatures we are merely stewards over the good gifts of our world.

Stewards are entrusted with the care of something that does not belong to them. If you take that as your definition and accept that this planet belongs to God, it should be painfully obvious to anyone but the most willfully ignorant among us that we have been terrible stewards. There are any number of markers by which you can tell that this is so, from the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps to the increase in average temperature to the rise in sea level to the amount of polluting waste we have spewed into the air and water and earth, all the result of human actions, but one indicator that is a dramatic harbinger of impending disaster is our inability to rein in carbon emissions. Scientists are virtually unanimous in saying that this failure will cause catastrophic problems for generations to come.

Recently, Jonathan Franzen, known more as a fiction writer than a prose commentator, stated the issue in eloquent but matter-of-fact form in an aptly named article entitled “What if we stopped pretending?”  In writing about the need to reduce carbon emissions, he writes, “The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it. Today the scientific evidence borders on the irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth — massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.”

Franzen’s premise is that each of us has two choices: either to keep hoping this is all preventable or “you can accept disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.”

Well, hope is a term with which Christians are very familiar, and it doesn’t involve empty-headed optimism, but rather an acceptance of the fact that, even in the face of stark and catastrophic reality, God can act for good through us. I’m not saying that we can pray away this problem. I’m asking, in the face of the mess that we as human beings have made of this planet, what can we as Christians do? And the more pointed question in the face of this particular reality, why isn’t the Church in the forefront of the effort to save what we can of our planet?

For any number of reasons, some theological, some political, some personal, we as Christians have not taken our proper place as advocates for better care of our God-given planet. But there simply is no excuse. As Christians, we have to do whatever we can to take care of this planet.

To Franzen’s point, however, once we recognize that many bad things are going to happen, we need to devote a considerable amount of our energies toward lessening their effects on people, especially the most vulnerable and poorest people in our world. That is clearly where Christ would have us place our efforts.

The one thing I can tell you is that the stress among people and among people groups is only going to increase, and as Christians we are called to be instruments of peace and healing. We will have our work cut out for us.

I’m just praying that we will be up to the task.